Heavy Trucks Damage Konola Bridge

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In less than a year after reconstruction work on the Konola Bridge on the Monrovia-Gbarnga highway, the bridge has developed new cracks reportedly owing to overweight trucks.
A section of the concrete that the steel beams are supporting has developed large cracks that could get worse if prompt repairs are not carried out.
The area that has developed the deep cracks exposing some of the iron rods in the concrete were constructed a few months ago. This damage to the bridge has subjected the quality of work done by the Chinese to public ridicule.
A visit to the bridge by a team of journalists including the Daily Observer Bong County Correspondent on Wednesday, July 15, revealed that although some attempts had been made to patch some of the cracks, more cracks kept occurring, causing some of the concrete to skin off into the water beneath.
An official of CICO, the Chinese construction firm that is renovating the highway, told journalists that the cracks were first detected in early May this year.
According to the Chinese contractor, the continued use of the bridge by heavy trucks with loads exceeding the stipulated 50 tones had compromised the safety and strength of the 51-year-old structure.
The Chinese contractor said the danger being posed by the overloaded trucks has persisted because there is no regulation put in place to control the tonnage of vehicles that may ply the route.
The Konola Bridge was a major concentrated area during the war days and was blasted by a bomb reportedly mounted on the bridge by the defunct National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL).
“We do not blame these unruly drivers, who disobey the safety measures on bridges, since those who are responsible to check their illegal acts have turned a blind eye to the safety of the bridges,” the Chinese contractor contended.
Some residents of Weala told this newspaper that they first detected the problem about two months ago and made several reports to the engineering department of CICO, but their reports were like “water falling on duck’s back.”
The situation became acute on Wednesday when more steel rods in the structure became exposed revealing the extent of the damage to the bridge.
The CICO staff said as part of the measures to prevent the problem from deteriorating further, the company will open an alternative route soon in order free the bridge for repair work which is expected to be completed in a matter of days.
During the repairs, he said, CICO will tackle the major cracks on the steel beam, while minor problems would also be given due attention.
To reduce the pressure exerted on the bridge by heavy duty vehicles, the CICO staff recommended that a tow booth be placed at the bridge and a mobile axle weighing equipment be installed to check the weight of heavy vehicles to prevent overweight trucks from crossing the bridge.
Residents also attributed the cracks on the steel beams to overloaded trucks, frequent use of the facility and the vibration.
On maintenance of the bridge, CICO staff said the pending repair works would be the first to be carried out since the company began reconstructing the highway in 2013.
Authorities at the Ministry of Public Works are yet to comment on the situation.

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